With the dark mornings and early nights drawing in, it’s safe to say winter is on its way. That also means that before long we’ll be greeted with rain, hail, sleet and snow (possibly all on the same day) making the roads a pretty treacherous place to be.
While some drivers will have been shielded from the worst of the winter weather due to Lockdown II earlier this year, this winter could prove to be a shock to the system… especially with snow being forecast for the end of October.
With this in mind, here’s some top tips for winter driving and some car safety tips to ensure your ride is able to tackle the worst of the weather…
De-ice your car (properly)
It’s the thing we all dread upon leaving the house on time for work: frozen windows all around the car. Suddenly you know you’re going to be late, and you might be half-tempted to just do the minimum and drive off or leave the car running to heat up and make life a little easier.
Both are, of course, illegal. So don’t do either.
Then there’s the variety of ‘lifehacks’ out there to perform the night before such as putting a hot water bottle on the dashboard to prevent frost but, call us crazy, we think that hot water bottle would be better off in bed with you if temperatures drop.
Instead, just invest in a large scraper and a can of de-icer to make those cold mornings a little less time consuming.
Even better, if you lease a Ford chances are you have access to Quickclear: this clever feature is designed to get you on the move quickly on frosty mornings, with ultra-thin filaments superheating to de-ice, de-fog and de-mist your windscreen at the touch of a button. Ideal for winter driving.
Drive to the conditions
Whereas driving in the rain is pretty much a year round experience in the UK, with the addition of darkness it adds another layer of hazard into the mix: Leave enough distance between you and the car in front to account for the increased braking distance and potential visibility if it’s heavy rain, and remember that you don’t have to go the speed limit at all times. These are just some basic car safety tips for winter driving.
If the roads are waterlogged due to a heavy downpour, also be aware that your chances of aquaplaning will increase: this means there’s a layer of water between the road and your tyres meaning you don’t have the traction you think you do and you’re likely to lose control.
When it comes to driving in the sleet, snow and/or ice, things become even more fraught. If you’re driving a manual car, it helps to set off in as high a gear as possible as, by reducing the torque, you will also avoid wheel spinning and potentially getting stuck.
With any luck, your car will offer four-wheel drive or intelligent all-wheel drive. While these drivetrains can come in incredibly handy in some of the worst driving conditions, they’re not a foolproof get out of jail free card. You must always drive to the conditions and leave yourself plenty of time to brake and come to a stop.
Even if your car has four-wheel drive, traction control, lane keep assist, and Quickclear, the fact is that if the road looks too treacherous or there’s a big incline you need to tackle, it’s best to just leave the car at home.
Check your car before the weather hits
Winter can have a terrible effect on your car, whether it’s sub-zero temperatures draining your battery or salty grit helping to cause more corrosion to the underside, but some simple checks can ensure your car is at least safe and ready.
One of the simplest and most important car safety checks you can make is the tread of your tyres. While you can buy specialist tools to measure tyre tread, a simple 20p can show you whether your tread level is safe or whether you should invest in a new one (or four). While the legal limit of tyre tread is 1.6mm, common knowledge says tread should be at least 2.5mm to drive safely in winter conditions. Similarly, make sure the tyre pressures are all correct and to the instructed pressure indicated in your car manual.
It’s also important to check your screen wash is filled up for winter: While you might think it’s most important use is for clearing dead bugs off your windscreen in summer, in winter this will help clear any de-icer residue if you’ve used it to clear your windscreen, as well as any grit and dirt kicked up off the road while driving in wintry conditions.
Prepping these simple car safety tips for winter driving will give a little bit of extra peace of mind no matter the weather.